The Great Western Greenway has been awarded first prize in the Exemplary Initiatives category at the 6th European Greenways Awards in Portugal, beating off stiff competition from Murcia, Spain (2nd) and the Channel Tunnel, UK (3rd).
Organized by the European Greenways Association, the awards promote examples of best practice in greenway development across Europe. The ceremony is taking place as part of an international Greenway conference “Greenways and Sustainable Tourism”.
In all, 157,000 trips have been recorded along the route since the beginning of 2013 (up to mid-August).
The busiest day so far this year was Saturday 3rd August, clocking up 1,015 people. 2013 looks set to surpass the 177,000 users that visited in 2012 with current projections at 200,000.
Minister for State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring said: “This is fabulous news for County Mayo and I would like to congratulate all those involved in the project. The Greenway has transformed the Newport and Mulranny areas in terms of tourism performance while creating almost 40 jobs locally.”
The Great Western Greenway (Westport-Newport-Mulranny-Achill) is a traffic-free cycling and walking facility that primarily follows the line of the old Great Western Railway, which closed in 1937.
The first 18 km of the Greenway, from Newport to Mulranny, opened in 2010, while the two extensions linking south to Westport and east to Achill formally opened in July 2011, lengthening the route to 42 km, mostly off-road.
The route is perfect for sightseeing – offering gentle gradients and some of the most idyllic scenery in the west of Ireland.
It forms part of the National Cycle Network and it is the longest off road cycling experience in the country.
Pictured above: The trail near the start of the Great Western Greenway at Derrada, outside Newport. Photo: Anthony Hickey